Tuesday, November 2, 2010


We lined up, from Britain, Indiana, Lake Erie and Philadelphia yearly meetings, around the table in Kalamazoo Friends meetinghouse. What a feast of autumn abundance. We talked, we ate, it was hard to herd us all upstairs for the program, but we went to hear Anne Bennett.

She told stories of people taking small steps where they were in situations of terrible loss and fear. Of men in Burundi trampling red mud and water to make bricks – almost dancing as they gave their time to re-house neighbors whose homes had been burnt. Everyone had lost family members in the slaughter, and there was always the possibility of more reprisal raids. She told us of women taking the practical steps of opening a laundry in a Balkan town where landmines were still hidden in side streets. It became a place to talk as well as to clean clothes, and is still a presence in the community. Just do what you can, where you are, was what I took away. Even if it doesn't make much sense at the time. Those small steps are part of the greater fabric of reconciliation.

She reminded us of our coping mechanisms. How we cope when we are with “others” – those with whose community we have historic issues or often recent grievances. – We navigate politely by talking about many topics except those touching on the things that separate us. How do we create the space, and time, and safety, to make possible those more difficult conversations, so critical for community and personal healing, possible?

I appreciated her accounts from long years of Quaker service, and I was happy that one of the things that we (FWCC) are doing is not only bringing speakers and programs to Friends communities, but also acting as a catalyst to bring those Friends together. As someone said last night: it takes outside visitors to get 35 Friends together on a Monday evening.

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